NBA Playoffs: Miami Wraps It Up On The Road

Dwayne Wade was amazing last night in Game 6 of the Miami-Indiana series in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. LeBron James was good, while Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert were so-so. These themes, commonly struck in TheSportsNotebook’s playoff commentary on this series, were very much in evidence last night. But they aren’t the reason Miami won 103-95 and clinched a spot in the conference finals. Miami’s advancing because they took care of the ball and Indiana didn’t, with the final turnover numbers being 20 for the Pacers and 9 for the Heat. Offensive execution like that ends seasons and that’s what happened to Indiana last night.

Miami didn’t just get turnovers, they clamped down on defense in the second half. Indiana for the game shot 48 percent, which is certainly good enough, but the number was 59 percent at halftime. The Heat maintained a steady 53 percent pace throughout the game, with Wade sizzling at 17-for-25 to score his 41 points. LeBron was 12-for-23 to get 28. Furthermore, Mike Miller and Mario Challmes combined to go 7-for-11 from three-point range.

>As for Indiana, they got a big offensive night from David West, who scored 24 points, but Hibbert only had 12 and Granger had 15. Neither of the latter two were bad, but they didn’t look like players ready to step and play big in a must-win game. It underscores the core difference between these teams—Indiana is deeper and better balanced, but big games in the NBA playoffs are won by stars and Miami’s got that power in spades. Indiana’s key players have to take that next step. Granger’s steady 15 a game will help his team win 50-55 games next year, but he needs to have some monster nights in the playoffs if they’re going to break through the Heat.

We have a night off in both the NBA & NHL playoffs (check that, Rangers-Devils Game 6 goes tonight). For the NBA, it’s the first since the postseason began. Miami’s in the East finals and will wait to host the winner of Boston-Philadelphia, who play Game 7 on Saturday night. The Celtics have homecourt, and just as importantly they have a couple days rest for that game, instead of the usual one night off between games. Between Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, at least one of them and probably both need to get their body to snap back into shape or Philadelphia is going to win. In either case, the Sixers matched up well with the Celtics throughout the season, so it should be no surprise that they’ve done so in this series. And while a Game 7 win in the Garden would be an upset, it wouldn’t be a stunning shock, particularly given how battered the C’s are at this point of the season and their individual careers.